Earlier this month, we brought you the depressing news that waste is up 300% since the beginning of lockdown.
While nature might be ‘healing itself’ from all the destructive human behaviour that tends be a part of ‘business as usual’, we’re still consuming and dumping stuff into the ground which doesn’t biodegrade. Of course, it’s not all our fault – the recycling plants can’t open due to the crisis.
But that doesn’t mean we have to give up on trying to live slightly greener lives while we’re stuck at home.
There are plenty of ways to make lockdown more sustainable. In fact, being at home gives us time to adapt our habits without the distractions that come from being super busy or on the move. If you’ve ever tried to go plastic-free, for example, you’ll know how hard it gets when you’re at work and unable to buy any food that isn’t heavily packaged.
So don’t worry if you haven’t nailed the perfect banana bread, started on your fifth book or managed to run 10K yet. There are much more fulfilling things to practice – like reducing your carbon footprint.
Remember, it’s not about being perfect – just give it a go and see what sticks.
Think about your food waste
The inital rush to stockpile on bog roll and pasta seems to have subsided but there’s still a temptation to buy as much as possible while you go to the shops. Not only is buying more than you need going to put a strain on the suppliers and on other people’s baskets, but it inevitably leads to food waste.
Last weekend, I heard someone in Aldi laughing about the fact that they’d had to chuck half of the stuff they’d panic bought at the start of the crisis away because it had gone rotten. They may as well have opened their windows and chucked a handful of cash in the air.
Money aside, food waste harms the environment. Around a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissons are created by food waste and if food waste was a country, it’d rank third for greenhouse gas production after USA and China. As food rots, it releases gases which are 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere. It also takes a lot of water to produce food.
And then, of course, we come to the obvious point, which is that wasting food at a time when according to the Trussell Trust, 1.6 million people were dependent on food banks in 2019 (a figure that is bound to have gone up during this crisis), is totally immoral.
- If you have food that you can’t use and which is reaching its sell-by date, why not download Olio – the food sharing app. It connects neighbours with each other, as well as to local businesses to share food rather than chuck it away. It’s fast, free and friendly.
- Create a compost heap if you don’t have one already. Composting saves water by helping the soil to retain moisture, provides necessary safe space for bugs and worms, and saves on landfill space. You can stick all your plant-based food in there as well as teabags (if in biodegradable bags) and coffee grounds. Smash your eggshells so that they break down sooner.
- Make a shopping list of the stuff you need and want before you get to the supermarket so that you’re not tempted to buy whatever you see.
- If you bought too much at the beginning of the pandemic and you’ve got lots of non-perishables that you won’t eat (dry pasta, tins, sealed packets of biscuits and crisps, sauces), you might like to make a donation to your local food bank. You can find your nearest one here.
Add more plants into your diet
Now isn’t the time to diet or self-flagellate for not being able to go fully vegan. We’re all going through a tough time and food undoubtedly plays a big role in calming us down and bringing us joy. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try to reduce the amount of animal fodder you eat and increase your plant intake.
Lots of us have more time at the moment, making this the perfect opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Plant-based cooking can be really cheap – cheaper than buying meat and fish – so if you’re worried about your wallet, don’t be. Veganism doesn’t have to mean spending loads on meat alternatives and coconut ice cream (although it most certainly can if you like that kind of thing!).
Going vegan saves 4,200 litres of water and 9.1kg of carbon dioxide a day. Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of the water used throughout the world so if you chuck away 1kg of beef, you waste 50,000 litres of water – which is bonkers when you think about it. Having at least one meat-free day a week can make a massive difference.
- Having at least one meat-free day a week and experiementing with different vegetarian and vegan recipes. Dhals and chickpea chana are super cheap to make and incredibly nutritious – both are packed with tonnes of fibre and plant protein
- If you want to have a go at something fancier or try making vegan puds, check out Bosh!, who have loads of easy-to-follow recipes for all kinds of plant-based meals.
- Want to learn how to cook vegan food with a professional? Plant-based chef, Monica – AKA Cook With Amore – is hosting live Facebook cook-along classes every Friday at 5.30pm. It’s operating on a donation basis so pay what you can and learn to cook some delicious grub in your own kitchen (her food is ridiculously delicious!).
Limit your internet shopping
It’s so tempting just to order all the things when you can’t go out. If you’re anything like me, you set your clock by the brave postie coming to deliver – for many of us, it’s the only person we might see or talk to all day. No wonder so many of us are indulging in regular online retail therapy at the moment.
But internet shopping comes at a heavy environmental cost. Everything comes in packaging that can’t be recycled at the moment – and some of it (think: those big plastic Amazon envelopes) – can’t be recycled any time. Unless you’re willing to hold on to your cardboard until the recycling points reopen, think about what you’re ordering and just how necessary it really is. Could you get it the next time you visit the supermarket? Do you need it now?
If you’re ordering your food online, that can also come with a lot of packaging so just check that your chosen supermarket does bagless shopping. Morrisons has removed bags from its deliveries, with certain items being placed in paper bags to maintain product quality. Of course, it may not be possible to pick and choose who you shop with and if you’re at all vulnerable, you’ll have no option but to order online.
- Ordering food from a supermarket that offers bagless deliveries
- Reducing the amount of internet shopping you’re doing from places like Amazon who often deliver products in a huge amount of packaging
Reuse what you have
There’s never been a better time to have a big clear out…except that all the recycling banks are closed as are refuse dumps.
Rather than flytipping, why not see what tat or old clothing you can reuse and make into something useful? Empty wine bottles make for great candlestick holders, while litre bottles can be filled to make dumbbell alternatives (one in each hand can really get you working). Old pillowcases can be refashioned into wash bags for NHS staff and you can turn your old t-shirts into face masks. All you have to do is wash everything at 60c when you’re finished and perhaps stick a sheet of kitchen towel on the inside of your mask which can then be put in your compost bin.
- Looking at what you want to chuck away and see it can serve another use – at least until the recycling banks re-open
- Turn fabrics into rags for cleaning, or into face masks/washbags
- Use your bottles as vases for spring flowers or candle holders
- Bigger plastic bottles can be made into DIY dumbbell weights
- Use your spare cardboard to store things away or create self-care packages for when it all gets a bit much (you could have a shoe box containing a candle, a sheet mask, some sweet treats and some nice hand moisteriser, for example).
It’s all about making small tweaks and doing the best you can. You don’t have to get it right all time and it might not be possible for you to be more green right now if it’s taking all you have to stay on a level. But if you are concerned about your footprint at the moment, then it’s always worth having a go at reducing what you can.
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